Whenever possible, choose concrete words to express your ideas, says Deborah Dumaine, author of Write to the Top.
“Abstract writing is open to many interpretations, all potentially inaccurate,” she says. “Make a real effort to clarify your ideas so that the reader understands your intention.”
The key, as Dumaine points out, is to work hard as you write each sentence.
In most cases, you can improve your writing simply by asking yourself, “Have I given enough examples and used words that create a picture in the reader’s mind? Or am I using fuzzy, vague words?”
Here are some examples of vague sentences from Dumaine, followed by more concrete versions. Notice how much more helpful the second sentences are:
Vague:If a situation like this occurs in the future, please involve others in the office before taking action.
Concrete: If you ever find the office door unlocked again, please ask people about it before calling the police department.
Vague: Due to extenuating circumstances, we will have to delay introduction of our new product line for a while.
Concrete: We’ve decided to delay introduction of our new product line for six months while we iron out a wrinkle in the propulsion system.
Vague: The unit is malfunctioning.
Concrete: The freezer isn’t making ice cubes.